This Saturday’s football game, against Concordia College marks the last game in a Gustavus uniform for the team’s 15 senior players. The Gustavus football team started out strong, winning its season opener against Simpson College 35-26.
After some close losses to Augsburg and St. Olaf, the football team rebounded to take a commanding 37-0 victory over Hamline University. Sitting at an even 2-2 record going into October, the team lost its next four games, over what proved to be a difficult part of their schedule.
The team came back from a rough month of October, to win last week against Carlton College. Sitting at 3-6, the season has not gone the way the team would have liked, as they will finish with a losing record.
While the standings don’t reflect where the team would like to be after Head Coach Peter Haugen’s fourth season at Gustavus, the team’s chemistry is. The foundation of a strong team has also been laid for future success.
All of this year’s 15 seniors were a part of Haugen’s first football class at Gustavus. Senior captain and quarterback Muresuk Mena mentioned that because this senior class was Haugen’s first at Gustavus, they became “really close with Coach, and each other as teammates, and as friends.” Because of their strong connection they were able to overcome past disappointments.
“This year’s senior group had outstanding team chemistry, even between the under and upperclassmen. Senior captains serve as the communicators between the players and the coaches,” Mena said.
Junior Linebacker Josef Haas also stated that the seniors are “a big voice for the team.”
“They all represent the team as a whole. All the seniors really are like unofficial captains because they set the standards for the rest of the team,” Haas said.
“This group is full of strong leaders. The coach sets the tone, but the leadership is only as strong as the players around you. The seniors are critical to the communication and heartbeat of the team,” Haugen said.
Haas also mentioned that all of this year’s seniors look to help out each other and the rest of their teammates. “Some of the seniors even offered study sessions to other players, for both on and off the field issues,” Haas said.
“You can’t really replace these guys. Every year has different challenges; you lose athletes and leaders each year. You just have to focus on developing younger students and leadership. As a coaching staff and as a team, we can’t give up on our process and vision,” Haugen said. Because of this, Haugen is confident that the team has a strong outlook for the future.
Muresuk Mena, when asked what he will take away from football at Gustavus, said “Playing football for Gustavus is a privilege, and has meant a lot to me as a man. It has taught me how to overcome obstacles in life and has given me a support system that I will have for life,” Mena said.
Senior Day on Saturday will be an emotional day for the team. “You want to send them off in the best way and take advantage of playing with them; as a team we can’t take their leadership for granted” Haas said.
Playing for the Gustavus football team is an honor for the players. “I have a lot of pride in being a Gustavus football player for life,” Mena said.